Sefer Yehoshua-Chapter 8: The conquest of Aiy

Chapter 8: The conquest of Aiy


1. G-d commands Yehoshua to wage a new battle against Aiy:

  • Hashem said to Yehoshua not to fear, and that he is to take with him the entire nation to wage war against Aiy. Hashem promised Yehoshua that He has handed him the king of Aiy, his nation and his entire land. Hashem stated: “You shall do to Aiy, and to its king, as you did to Jericho and its king. You shall make an ambush from behind the city.”
  • Hashem instructs Yehoshua regarding the plunder: Hashem instructed: The plunder of the city of Aiy you shall take for yourself [and do not consecrate it as you did by Jericho].

2. The battle strategy against Aiy:

  • Yehoshua and the entire nation went towards Aiy to wage war, and Yehoshua chose 30,000 warriors and sent them off at night to create an ambush from behind the city. He instructed them not to distance themselves too much from the city, and to be ready in wait to capture the enemy.
  • The ambush plan: The plan was as follows: Yehoshua and the rest of the nation would come towards the city, and when the enemy soldiers wage their attack against us as they did originally, we will flee from before them. They will chase us until the point that they are completely disconnected from the city, as they will think that we are once again fleeing from them as occurred originally. Now, you will get up from your ambush and enter the city and drive out [and decimate[1]] all the inhabitants. After capturing the city, you shall light the city afire as G-d commanded [regarding Jericho, and that so should be done to Aiy[2]].

3. The troops are stationed:

  • The first ambush: Yehoshua sent the soldiers and they set up the ambush between Beis Eil and Aiy, to the west of Aiy.
  • Soldiers are positioned: Yehoshua slept that night amongst the nation [in order to be ready to wage battle immediately in the morning[3]]. In the morning, Yehoshua instructed the nation and led them in battle towards Aiy. They stationed themselves to the north of Aiy.
  • The second ambush: Yehoshua took 5000 men and set up a [second[4] and closer] ambush between Beis Eil and Aiy, to the west of the city.
  • The entire nation was positioned to the north of the city, while the ambush was to the west of the city. That night Yehoshua slept within the valley.

4. The battle begins:

  • When the king of Aiy saw the soldiers, he hurriedly gathered his troops, the members of his city, to engage the Jews in battle within the plains [that was outside the city[5]]. He was completely unaware of the ambush that was staged. He desired to begin the battle at the set time [that his sorcerers determined to be auspicious for them to win[6]].
  • The Jews flee while all the men of Aiy give chase: The Jewish people began fleeing from in front of the enemy, making it appear as if they were weak, scared and injured. They fled towards the desert. All the [male] city inhabitants chased after the Jewish people, and Yehoshua, with a roar, thus detaching them from the city. There was no man left in the city of Aiy and Beis Eil who did not go out to wage war against Yehoshua, thus leaving the city open [for destruction].

5. The ambush attacks and the city is set afire:

  • The spear is lifted: Hashem instructed Yehoshua to lift his spear towards Aiy [as a sign for the ambush to close in on the city and begin their attack[7]].
  • Aiy is set ablaze: Yehoshua did as instructed and the men waiting in ambush ran from its position and entered the city, capturing it. They quickly set the city ablaze. The men of Aiy turned around towards the city and watched their entire city set aflame, with smoke rising to the heavens. They had no energy, or area left to flee in any direction, and the Jewish army who had fled to the desert turned around and began chasing them.
  • The Aiy army and city is decimated: Yehoshua and the Jewish people saw that the entire city was captured by the attack of the ambush and was set ablaze, and they then smote all the people of Aiy. The warriors within the city came out towards the fighters of Aiy, hence trapping them from both sides. They destroyed the entire army of Aiy until no survivor was left. The king of Aiy was captured alive and brought to Yehoshua. After they annihilated the army of Aiy in the field, they set forth to annihilate the residents [i.e. women and children[8]] of the city, and they killed them all with the sword.
  • The total number of deaths: The total amount of people killed in Aiy was 12000.
  • The spear of Yehoshua: Yehoshua did not put down his spear until all the inhabitants of Aiy were killed.
  • The spoils: The animals and spoils of the city were taken for personal use by the Jewish people, as Hashem instructed Yehoshua.
  • Yehoshua burnt the city of Aiy and left it as a desolate mound until this day.
  • The king of Aiy is hung: The king of Aiy was hung on a tree until nighttime. At sundown, Yehoshua instructed to take down the corpse from the tree and for it to be thrown in the entrance of the city. A stone mound was placed over his corpse and remains there until this very day.

6. Har Gerizim and Har Eival:

  • Building an altar: Yehoshua built an altar for Hashem on Har Eival, as Moshe commanded in his Torah to make an altar of whole stones which metal has not touched. They brought upon it Karbanos to Hashem. The Torah of Moshe was written on the stones. [In truth, this took place the day they crossed the Jordan, prior to the battle of Jericho or Aiy.[9]]
  • All the Jewish people, and its elders and judges, stood across the Aron, opposite the Kohanim and the Levites, half [i.e. Shimon, Levi, Yehuda Yissachar, Yosef, Binyamin[10]] towards Har Gerizim and half [i.e. Reuvein, Gad, Asher, Zevulun, Naftali] towards Har Eival, as Moshe originally commanded. Afterwards they read the entire Torah scroll, the blessings and curses, as it is all written in the Torah. There was no matter in the commands of Moshe [i.e. the 613 commands[11] or the curses and blessings[12]] that was not read before the entire congregation of Israel, including the women and children, and converts.


[1] See Rashi and Radak 8:7

[2] Radak 8:8

[3] Rashi and Radak 8:11

[4] Rashi and Metzudos David 8:12

[5] Radak 8:14

[6] Rashi 8:14

[7] Rashi 8:18

[8] Metzudos David 8:24

[9] Rashi 8:30; Radak 8:29

[10] Radak 8:33

[11] Radak 8:35; however, see Metzudos David 8:33-35

[12] Metzudos David 8:33-35

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